Posted by: Jo | April 24, 2022

Not Counting The Cost

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

(Matthew 13: 44)

Jesus was telling this parable to his disciples who at first were bewildered why so much of his teaching to the crowds was in the form of parables, but he was really teaching his followers that the cost of entering the kingdom of heaven and becoming a citizen did come with a cost. In the book of Proverbs, we read 

“Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4: 7)

Wisdom is understanding we worship a mighty God and following his commands is worth every effort we put into it, in fact it is the life the Heavenly Father designed for us to live, in the same chapter of Proverbs we read, 

“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go. Guard it well for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4: 13)

Following Jesus brings us great joy and knowing the Holy Spirit dwells with us, surrounding us with love and compassion gives us the courage and strength to survive whatever problems arise in our lives, but we owe it to our Savior. Sometimes we feel that cost when we struggle to follow all the commands that we know will please the Heavenly Father and enrich our lives and others around us. Loving your neighbour is not always easy and even putting up let alone loving that annoying fellow worker is difficult to do. Living with others, poses all sorts of problems, and sometimes we want to cry out to God and say surely you don’t expect me to love that cranky old lady who lives on our street and never has a kind word to say about anybody, but the surprising thing I have discovered the longer I walk with Jesus is the overwhelming benefit I have received by not thinking of myself first and loving the unlovable.

Just recently I had a falling out with a friend over different opinions and felt our friendship needed to end and vowed not to call her again, but just after that, after my prayer time in the morning, I felt the Lord urging me to reconsider and apologize to her and to listen to her without condemning, after I had called her I was filled with a beautiful feeling of peace and my angry thoughts disappeared leaving me to enjoy my days again without ugly thoughts spoiling the day 

The commands of God are not to restrict us, but they are designed to give us life. In Proverbs 4: 13 we are told to hold on to instruction and that is what God’s word is. God has designed us to walk in his footsteps and when we follow his instructions we are on the right path of life and just like the man in the parable who did not count the cost, we find what a treasure it is being one of God’s precious children. 

Posted by: Jo | March 31, 2022

Images Of God

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete us.”

(1 John: 4: 12)

It is very hard to imagine someone you have never seen, but technology has spoilt us through Zoom and Microsoft Team but our Heavenly Father really wanted his children to know him intimately and his word is filled with images we can understand so we can grasp who our awesome God is. His images often use animals and birds, creatures we are familiar with to show his love for us. 

“He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge….” (Psalm 91: 4)

When my husband and I were younger we had a cottage on a lake and one of my favourite sights was the regal Loon who visited us every Spring to the same nest to raise her little ones. When they were hatched and still small, they would ride on her back but the act that I loved to watch, was if anything appeared on the lake a strange bird or a boat, she would raise her wings cover her chicks hide them and they were protected from any danger. What a beautiful image for us to think of when we need a refuge from what is swirling around us. 

A father figure is another image we can understand and relate to 

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3: 17)

One night when my first born was a little baby we were having one of those nights when she would not sleep, but was constantly crying, my husband took over and the image reminded me of this verse. He snuggled her against his chest rocked her and sang softly over her. It worked she fell asleep!  Imagine the Creator of the universe singing over us and calming our fears. 

Our Father is also a powerful figure, and this is another aspect of him he wants us to know. He can defend and is protecting us. He is a King greater than any earthly king; he can bring peace into our lives he is the Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would bring the images of God to earthly vision 

“And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6)

The Psalmists had many descriptions of God as a Mighty Warrior and at the same time he was called our Refuge, a place to hide when trouble surrounded us a Fortress that can withstand any attacks. 

Realizing we are loved by a many faceted God, gives us great confidence that we have a Loving Father who loves us and protects us as we hand our lives over to him to direct our paths. 

Posted by: Jo | March 3, 2022

Yes!! You Can!

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”

(Philippians 4: 13)

I have been watching an advertisement that comes across my television, usually interrupting the news, but it started to grab my attention when I heard what a lot of the young people were saying, ”I can’t do that” and then in huge letters, 

Yes!! You Can!

I am not sure what the advertisement was aiming at, but the underlying message was clear if you think positive work hard you will achieve what you want to. This is a false idea. Life does not always plan out by our own efforts. Paul gives us believers a different message in his letter to the Philippians. He has learnt that his own efforts might be paltry, but God will give us all strength to perform his good works he has planned for us. God has given us all gifts, different ones for different people. In the book of Romans Paul tells us we all have gifts even though they differ from others 

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us…” (Romans 12: 6)

The Old Testament has fascinating stories of humans arguing with God that they cannot do the job God has chosen for them Moses is horrified when God tells him to speak 

“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3: 12)

God answers, I will be with you and although Moses argues longer with God, we know how the children of Israel were freed from Egypt. God was with them! 

Again, we have the story of Gideon, a member of one of the smaller tribes who is so afraid of the enemies he was hiding inside to do the threshing in case he was seen. An angel comes to him and calls him an astounding name for Gideon to hear 

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”” (Judges 6: 12)

Gideon is astonished at being called this and argues with the Lord and even puts God to the test, but with the help of the Lord this timid man leads the army to victory. Good story to read in Joshua 6.

Again, the mighty prophet, Jeremiah, is chosen by God but he too argues with God that he is too young 

““Ah Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”” (Jeremiah 1: 6)

With the strength God provided he went on to be an amazing prophet for the Lord 

These are wonderful stories to encourage us to face the challenges of life. The Lord has promised to never forsake us (Joshua 1: 5).

We all have gifts that we can use with the strength of the Holy Spirit to help us shine as true disciples of Jesus Christ and if we feel the Lord calling us to achieve something to further his kingdom and feel inadequate remember he will give us the strength to do it. 

We sing a beautiful song at our church that gives me the strength to keep going.

The joy of the Lord gives me strength

Posted by: Jo | February 6, 2022

Love Your Neighbour

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked, “And who is my neighbour?”

(Luke 10: 29)

Just recently my daughter and her husband had a poignant and strange experience. They were watching television in their apartment, which is in quite a busy part of our city surrounded by several apartment buildings. Suddenly they heard someone trying to unlock their apartment door. At first, they thought someone had come to the wrong floor or door. Looking through the security peep hole of the door, my daughter saw an old man looking confused. She didn’t recognize him as one of the occupants. She saw him try other doors and being ignored. Having pity on him, she opened her door and spoke to the man. He had no idea where he was and was unable to tell her and her husband where he lived. My son-in-law assumed the distraught man would have identity information on him and inquired if he could see the wallet, where he found an identity card with his name and address. It was on a street behind them, only a block away, so they were able to walk him home safely through the dark. Ensuring that he safely arrived within his apartment.

Big cities and high rises have made it difficult to know our neighbours. With all the people living close to each other, it is unfortunate that we have very many lonely and at-risk people, such as this distressed man.  Jesus’ command to love our neighbours is more important than ever.

“My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15: 12)

We often assume that this is a command of the New Testament, but Jesus was reminding his disciples of God’s words to the children of Israel.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”  (Leviticus 19: 18)

While Jesus was teaching, an expert in the law challenged him by asking who my neighbour is (Luke 10:  29). To which Jesus responds with the beautiful parable of “The Good Samaritan”.

We sometimes want to ask that same question ourselves and think surely Jesus doesn’t mean that crabby old lady who lives on our street, she never has a good thing to say, but yes there is no qualification as to who Jesus is asking us to love and treat with compassion.

John has a beautiful reminder in his first letter to the new believers. It has great depth of meaning to how knowing God, of his love that begins to fill us, and it is because of this we can learn to love others, even those who are not so lovable.

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4: 10)

Posted by: Jo | January 11, 2022

New Beginnings

“Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Colossians   3:  10)

I was reading a fascinating article about time and when certain dates influence our minds. Major milestones like important birthdays, anniversaries of joy or sorrow, achievements like passing that exam, winning that competition etc. seem to jolt us out of the everyday mundane thoughts. The New Year is one of those times, it is impossible not to be aware of the change of a year The news is shrieked at us through world news. Wild celebrations are displayed on the media from major cities all over the world.  I wanted to find out how long ago this all began and was amazed when I went to the internet and found out that the Babylonians 4,000 years ago held a special celebration to honor the New Year (a different date from ours) when the crops were planted. I’m not sure if resolutions were made.

It is a common practice in present day society to make resolutions at the New Year, losing weight/ doing more exercise/ start that course/ look for a new better paying job, these all require much effort on the part of the person making the resolutions, and often fail after a few months, but when Paul is writing to the Colossians new beginnings have a whole different meaning. He is urging them to change their ways but not in their own strength but relying on the power of the Creator.

When Paul is writing to the Ephesians, he focuses on the attitude of our mind and urges his listeners to disregard what they were first taught about what was important.

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which s being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of you minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:  22 – 24)

The world does teach us a different way of living than what Scripture tells us is pleasing to Our Heavenly Father. The world tells us how we look is most important. Hence all those New Year resolutions to lose weight/ exercise/have Botox injections. It tells us everybody has a dream you just must work hard to achieve it when you fail the world tosses you aside. Money will make you happy get to the top even if you must push others out of the way being powerful perhaps the worst thing to strive for.

If we go back to Colossians, we read a far better way to make this New Year a better one.

Here is a worthwhile resolution to make for this New Year.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3: 12 – 13)

Posted by: Jo | December 13, 2021

Why Was He Born In A Stable?

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

(Luke 2: 6 – 7)

Every year, as far back as I can remember, at Christmas time I set up a Nativity scene in my living room. My stable is still sturdy to stand and receive all the little figures that represent this amazing miracle. This year I had my little five-year-old granddaughter at my house, and she wanted to help me set it up. Children with their simple outlook on life have fascinating ways of looking at what we often take for granted and she asked many questions as we carefully arranged the scene. First, she remarked how old my stable looked and when we were setting up the sheep, she also had more questions about why they were going near a baby. I was able to tell her the story as we went along and explained what a stable was. This is when she asked me the most thought-provoking question, we all need to ask. 

Why was he born in a stable?

When the coming of a Messiah was prophesied in the book of Isaiah, the impression the readers get is that a mighty King is coming. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

This child was expected to look like a powerful King who would save his people. He would have been expected to be born in a majestic Royal Palace with a fanfare of trumpets and celebration and hundreds coming to worship him. So why did the Creator of the universe choose to become as a child in human nature and choose to be born in such humble circumstances?  

So many lessons for generations to ponder and so much for us as followers of Christ to learn from his humble beginning. 

Paul grasped the true meaning of Jesus’s birth 

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature, of a servant, who being made in human likeness. And as being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:  6 – 8)

So, as we come to worship this Christmas, yes we are worshipping a Mighty King, a Wonderful Counsellor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Prince of Peace, but also let us be aware of his humble beginning and his beautiful example of being a servant and walking and living with the common man, relating to every emotion mankind experiences. 

Posted by: Jo | December 5, 2021

Our Daily Bread

“Give us today our daily bread”

(Matthew 6: 11)

A few weeks ago, we had a visiting guest speaker at our church. He was originally from Scotland, and I immediately felt in tune with him as he told us about his school days when he was a boy in Scotland. He shared with us that every morning at school the children gathered and recited the Lord’s prayer. My experience in Australia where I was born, was the same. The whole school gathered, and we sang a hymn, recited the Lord’s prayer, and ended with God Save The King. (That immediately tells you I am old). The speaker also had a similar memory to me, we recited the prayer without any feeling or any real knowledge about what the words meant it was just something we said every morning. 

The pastor’s sermon was about meaningful prayer, but after he had reminded me about just reciting the Lord’s prayer, I went back, afterwards to read the whole passage in the Bible. Jesus is teaching his disciples many wise ways to live his teaching and warns them about exactly what we all can fall into, reciting words without thinking of the great depth of what we are saying 

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6: 7)

Then Jesus speaks a very powerful message to us all 

“This then is how you should pray….” (Matthew 6: 9)

This is obviously not like a poem we recite from memory. It is the right and beautiful way to enter the Father’s presence to communicate with him. The beginning would have been very startling to the disciples. God was never addressed as Father, in fact his name was so sacred it was never spoken so when Jesus tells us we can now call him, Father we also should always be aware of the privilege granted to us. The beginning also awakes us, it is not Dear Father, but Our Father we are praying it together as the family of God 

What really made me think about were these beautiful words  

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6: 11)

The study I read every morning is called Our Daily Bread and of course we need food for our physical bodies but underlying these words is an even deeper meaning and the title of the study reveals it. We need feeding for our spiritual souls. Jesus told the disciples at the last supper that the wine was his blood, but the bread was his body. We need that bread of life every day and the way we receive it is to spend time in prayer every day and ask him to fill us with his presence, so we have the strength to walk in the path of truth with him.

Such a good reminder to always to think of the words we are saying when we pray the beautiful prayer the Lord has given us, not like children reciting a poem in school, but with deep meaning and love. 

Posted by: Jo | November 5, 2021

Godly Energy

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”

(1 Colossians 1: 29)

Just recently one of my friends was telling me about a new church she had started to attend and as she was describing how she felt during the worship service she used this phrase to describe what she felt, Godly energy. I was intrigued by the phrase and the more I thought about it the more I was convinced that she had uncovered an amazing truth about how all of us believers need to use this power of Godly energy in our own lives, not relying on our own feeble efforts to live but to enlist his energy to spread God’s word and live his word, not becoming stale and  lifeless, powerless to achieve what he desires us to do, but to move with his energy.

When Paul is writing to the young churches, he constantly reminds them to call upon and use the incredible energy of our God to help them through whatever they might be experiencing and in his letter to the Ephesians he writes this:

“I pray also that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.” (Ephesians 1:  18 – 19)

Paul never boasted about his own strength and never implied that it was something about him that achieved the amazing spreading of the gospel. Too often we can fall into that trap that somehow, we think we are making great strides because of how hard we are working at being good Christians. When we are humble there is more room in our actions for God to display his mighty power.

Sometimes, life presents huge problems in our lives and Paul talks about his struggles in the verse in Colossians, but the wisdom of calling upon and using God’s energy to overcome goes right back to the Old Testament when God speaks to his embattled people with this message.

“…Listen to what the Lord says to you. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20: 15)

The children of Israel learnt that truth repeatedly, but unfortunately also forgot over and over again as they slipped back into thinking they had it all together and lapsed into forgetting about turning to God for help and also not bothering to follow his guidance, consequently falling back into chaos.

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by our own lack of strength and as I am at that old age category, I frequently do. One of my favorite verses is in the book of Isaiah and I often go back and read it when I feel I cannot go on

“So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10)

Posted by: Jo | October 24, 2021

Following The Instructions

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you”

(Psalm 32: 8)

I have become used to my old, fashioned appliances I have owned for years, but lately, just like me, they are wearing out and some have refused to work at all. This happened to my blender and after I confided in my daughter, she lovingly bought me a new one. When she opened it in my kitchen my heart sank, it was nothing like I had ever seen and when I asked where the buttons were to turn it on, she replied, no buttons it is programmed on the front you just must read the instructions to see what the symbols mean. She handed me the book of instructions and my heart sank further, but I knew I needed to read it. 

Fortunately, we who follow Jesus have an incredible book of instructions to help us lead a full and fulfilling life the way the Heavenly Father designed us to live. This book never gets old or out of date nor do the instructions. They are not hard to read, and the Lord has even sent us a helper, The Holy Spirit, if we struggle to understand. As we live them, we feel complete as we follow the instructions written for us in God’s Word. 

Following the instructions is the key. If we read them and think that is a good idea, but still proceed with how we would like to live, disasters can happen. I have seen several family members attempting to assemble some Ikea furniture without properly reading the instructions and witnessed the frustration as things went wrong. 

Solomon had a lot of wise words to say about heeding instruction and wanted his son, but of course ultimately all of us, not to ignore it. 

“Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4: 13)

I found another very powerful warning for all those attempting to build without reading the instructions 

“He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.” (Proverbs 13: 13)

The more we read of how important reading instructions is we see that the emphasis Jesus brought in his teaching was how imperative it was to follow him to learn how to act and think and behave how he did. 

“When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8: 12)

So, reading instructions must always be followed by actually doing them. 

When Jesus called his first disciples, he used these words:

“Come, follow me” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4: 19)

We don’t have Jesus in person now, but he has left us a book of instructions to learn how to follow him, we just must read and do what he says.  

Posted by: Jo | October 3, 2021

Lost and Found

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and goes after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

(Luke 15: 4)

Just recently I was minding my youngest granddaughter who has just turned five years old. She was chatting away to me when suddenly she said, I don’t want to get lost. I was surprised by what she said and assured her she wouldn’t get lost and listed all the people around her who were always looking after her. Then she said, well Chase got lost. Then I understood why she had asked me. Her family and I had been watching a sweet movie which was a popular cartoon. She knew all the names of the characters and of course so did I as I had watched numerous cartoons with her. In the movie they show what originally happened to Chase when he was a puppy and his owner didn’t want to keep him and dropped him off on a busy street and he was lost. My little granddaughter could not stop thinking how terrible that would be for her. 

Being lost is certainly a disturbing feeling for all of us and during our lifetime that feeling can take on all different forms. Being lost while trying to find the right street can be annoying, but a road map helps, but when life takes a sudden turn and feeling completely lost as to the right decision to choose, can be overwhelming. Sometimes we feel so out of place in a crowd we can feel lost and feel we must be invisible because nobody noticed us. The young often feel lost as to who they really are and despair of ever finding their own identity. For some, addiction steals away true self and the feeling of lost is left behind. 

I remembered what happened in the movie and reminded my little granddaughter that a dear little boy found the puppy and took him home and loved him. 

That is exactly what our Heavenly Father wants us to remember, and he continues to tell us this in the parable of the Good Shepherd 

“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home then he calls his neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me for I have found my lost sheep.”” (Luke 15:  5 – 6)

The whole of Luke Chapter 15 concentrates on what being lost can mean and the story of the Lost Son is one of the most beautiful parables Jesus told his followers and reminds us that whatever trial is overwhelming us with that horrible feeling of being lost and having nobody to find us and help us we can then remember the powerful shoulders of our Heavenly Father who is always standing by to find us. 

One of the most beautiful hymns ever written emphasizes the joy of being lost and then found by our loving Savior and in Amazing Grace the writer joyfully records what happened to him.  

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

So we don’t despair when we feel lost we hold fast to this verse. 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19: 10) 

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